Two From One

These were created last month and came from one piece. I tore the original in half. If I have a picture of the original I’ll post next time. Similar theme but now two quite separate pieces.

Incorporating more writing/calligraphy in my work.

Collage Series, February 2016

I set myself the task of doing a collage a day and almost got to 10 days but life intervened. Now that I’m back in the studio, I plan to begin this process again with the goal of increasing the size of the paper/support. I’ve long wanted to work larger. My studio doesn’t support huge but I can certainly do larger than these which are all about 7″x9″.

Each was created in under 30 minutes, with materials at hand. I simply wanted to see what would come of the process since I hadn’t worked that way with collage in a while.

Narrative Themes

I have an idea to create a series of narratives based on themes, like the Seven Sorrows of Mary, or themed sequences, like the Stations of the Cross. Also to look closely at the gestures used in these paintings. I discovered a book called Gestures of Despair that examined shared gestures across medieval and renaissance art. Symbolic gestures were developed in part because, though few could read words they could easily read gestures. Gestures fascinate me. We forget how rich and utterly human they are.

I recently heard a woman who receives dialysis tell a story. One day, while in the hospital, alone in her room and in great pain, a nurse came in to check the machine–her brusque manner made plain she was very busy. She barely looked at the woman and didn’t speak, but on the way out, she stopped, turned around and went to the woman’s bedside. The woman’s voice broke as she described the nurse wordlessly, gently brushing the hair from her face, and for a moment cradling the woman’s cheek with her hand. I was in tears listening. An example of the power of gesture.

Cross paintings w additions

Last night I just painted and stopped anguishing about content, technique, frustration with oils- blah blah blah- and so a breakthrough of sorts- still the image of the cross but in oil with some charcoal and acrylic- both are still in process but relaxing into the medium (oil) allows space for subtle changes in representation. When I do that, I can feel how the medium wants to interpret content. When I use more familiar mediums like collage, gouache or watercolor, I rarely think about how to work or what to draw/paint, but with oils there’s still a lot of second guessing beforehand and judgement after.

These paintings are coming from sketches that are evolving the more I draw. Representations of celestial blessings–the half circles with lines at the top of the page–are morphing into  other images, in this case, udders.

My reading about cross symbolism is showing up in these sketches–melding with images I’ve been creating for a long time. Sketches are incorporating other, very ancient meanings of the cross unrelated to Christianity that venerated it as an emblem of Christ’s suffering and redemptive death. I’ll discuss those meanings in more detail later, but a quick list of some other meanings includes: the cross as tree of life, as the axis or center of powerful earthly forces, the union of the four elements, the center of the universe, a representation of the human body. I believe my desire–-at least for now–is to reclaim the cross as a symbol of fecundity, as a point of intersection between heaven and earth, as a tree of life. I was never interested in it as a symbol of suffering and redemption and even as a child, avoided it. I was intensely interested in stories and narratives about forgiveness and compassion, in symbols related to Mary, like the rose, or in statuary, sculpture and stained glass.

 

Shrine Madonnas

A friend sent me a review of Elina Gertsman’s book, Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna, published by University of Pennsylvania Press this year. One look and I was smitten.

“In this truly multidisciplinary study of one of the most perplexing and beguiling of medieval visual traditions, the so-called Vierges ouvrantes, Elina Gertsman…. it brings together attention to the material and phenomenological specificity of objects and the theological, political, and epistemological dimensions within which they were created, viewed, and handled, or mishandled. One of the book’s most important contributions is its focus on the way the Vierges ouvrantes articulate a relationship between outside and inside, not just on an iconographic level but also and more importantly in terms of bodily process and passage. …Gertsman’s prose [is] finely balanced with the seriousness of her concern with the fundamental questions of how visual experience not only informs but actively shapes the way human beings experience physical, social, and psychic bodies.” —Alexa Sand, Utah State University

The idea of the sacred and profane body, inner and outer, and fragmentation are certainly  themes in my work based on sacred images. My intention is to research and understand the history of that impulse, articulate it and create images with paint that evoke that.

 

At Loose Ends (07.21.15)

Reading about Guston, Chagall, Hesse, Kandinsky, O’Keefe, Bourgeois and more- reading about map making, cosmology, the spiritual in art, feminist art and more- working 25 hours/week, dealing with roommate issues, aging parents and daily life. Thinking I’m the only one in my cohort who still feels adrift, unsure about “direction” and what constitutes a “body of work.” (Facebook discussions with them assure me I’m not.)

It helps to stand in front of my drawing table every day and do something. It helps to work directly with judgement and confusion to accept them and make stuff anyway. It helps to be around other artists, something I don’t do enough but am looking to do more.

The 2 pieces above were one drawing that I tore in half a while ago. I took them out recently and hung them in my studio- they remind me of Redon- they nudge me- maybe they’ll inspire me- maybe I’ll just contemplate them.
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This unfinished piece is (maybe) the beginning of working with maps. I have an idea about landscape and drought (I have a huge book of old CA maps) and the resources underground- maps enthrall me- many early maps, esp maps of the cosmos and the heavens, try to convey complex ideas and concepts while also  trying to show the passage of time, or unfolding events.

The small collages below were made a few weeks ago- part of my collage practice looking at forms, balance and color- these come from an unconscious place. Not sure I want to “know” that much about them.

 

Rediscovering Surrealism and Dada (07.10.15)

In Fiona Bradley’s, Movements in Modern Art: Surrealism, I rediscovered my Surrealist and Dada roots. I was fully immersed in reading about these movements in my 20’s, especially Dadaism–Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch inspired me to work in collage.

A surprising result of this MFA program is the excitement and liberation in finding my artistic lineage and tracing my connections to various movements and artists. Work methods I thought I’d “fallen into” are similar to, in some cases exactly like, methods used by André Masson and other surrealists.

In the 1950’2 Masson was drawn to Asian art and Zen Buddhism and became “fascinated by the play between spontaneity and control in Asian art.” These influences appeared in works like Nu vert and Message de mai, and show yet anther connection through shared spiritual interests (vipassana meditation) and art practice.